How Collaborative Organizations Can Make the World a Better Place

Enterprise 2.0. The Social Enterprise. Emergent Collaborative Software. Enterprise Social Software.

Vendor speak. Boring. Confusing. Meaningless?

We’ve seen the talks, the tweets, the clever diagrams and long heralded the arrival of a next generation of filing cabinets, shoephones and smoke signals that are finally going to bring our disparate troops together behind a single cause. Turns out that there’s a common thread in the failure of these situations—we’ve been starting with the solution, not the problem.

Not to worry. There’s a book that offers valuable insight into the situation. And who better to review it?

HootSuite’s VP Marketing, Ben Watson, on Jacob Morgan‘s recently released bestseller, The Collaborative Organization: A Strategic Guide to Solving Your Internal Business Challenges Using Emerging Social and Collaborative Tools:

The Collaborative Organization

And today, we’re excited to launch a book giveaway, giving you the opportunity to win a special edition copy of this leading strategy guide to emergent collaboration in the workplace.

Enter Here

Resistance is Futile – Business is and Always Was Social

Jacob Morgan has only ever worked for companies that have access to emerging social and collaborative tools. Having worked with him in the past I know he’s an effective and efficient collaborator, but I think the spark is that in spite of his unique perspective he doesn’t take any of this for granted. He knows that for most companies and the change agents inside them, the transformation to awesome collaboration is going to be tough and that they’re going to need help.

Drawing on examples from Penn State, USAA, Tieto, Océ and Vancouver’s Telus, Jacob weaves in stories of people affecting change around the technology decisions they make, and finds the true paths to success in the tireless efforts of those who truly understand the difference between cultural impetus for change and the successful adoption of emergent technologies.

But back to the that buzzword bingo that got us started. Jacob settled on using the term emergent collaboration because emergent means “becoming visible or being noticed,” and collaboration means “working with someone to create something or achieve a goal.” This sums up exactly what this book and this business evolution are about: new ways of working with people to create things and solve problems.

And he’s dug in indeed, having completed the research, talked to the leaders, the pundits and the practitioners and arrived at what is arguably one of the leading texts and some of the best research on how collaborative organizations can make the world a better place.

A Tale of Two Changes

Collaborative organizations can help make the world a better place. Imagine employees who are more productive at work, are happier, and feel more fulfilled and inspired with the work they do. This doesn’t just impact their lives at work, but it also impacts their lives at home. These employees will have more time to spend with family, less stress (which hopefully causes fewer arguments), and an overall improved quality of life. Sounds easy–so call back that annoying software salesman, break down and buy the latest, greatest version of that collaborizor thingy he was hoarding in his trunk.

To define the right balance of problem and solution, Jacob leans on Augie Ray, the executive director of community and collaboration at the USAA to make this point:

“With the pace of change increasing and the risks of moving too fast or too slow never greater, the ability to have employees collaborate effectively regardless of space, time, language, and other impediments is no longer just a competitive advantage—it is vital. Collaborating effectively inside and outside the organization is the only way to ensure that the enterprise and the employees are prepared for rapid changes in technology, human behavior, and business culture.”

The First Step to Recovery is Admitting You Have a Problem

The most important thing collaboration enables employees to do is form bonds and connections with one another, in effect, building relationships. These relationships and engaged employees are what lead to ideas and discoveries within organizations.

In 1973 the sociologist Mark Granovetter published a paper titled “The Strength of Weak Ties,” in which he asserted the value of weak ties as bridges that are valuable for the dissemination of information.

In fact, Granovetter stated, “all bridges are weak ties.” Strong ties exist in limited numbers because they require effort to maintain; weak ties require far less effort, which means there can be many of these bridges. The weak ties tend to be more valuable across enterprises because weak ties are the bridges between departments and geographies.

If you ask someone for something with whom you have a strong tie, you’ll have a strong overlap in terms of who that person knows and what he has access to. When you build weak ties you get access to new information, new ideas, new people, and new opportunities.  It’s not possible to maintain strong ties with everyone at a company, which is why weak ties are so valuable. Of course the challenge for many global companies is that they have NO ties at all!

Figure 2.2 : Enterprise 2.0 business drivers
Figure 2.2 : Enterprise 2.0 business drivers

From the research results Morgan found that the top five business drivers for better collaboration are (in order):

  • Connecting colleagues across teams and geographies – strengthen the weak ties
  • Increasing productivity – get people more time with their family
  • Fostering employee engagement – get us talking to each other
  • Fostering innovation – maintain your competitive edge
  • Capturing and retaining institutional knowledge – keep and share what matters most

To further enforce these findings, Jacob draws on the wise words of Ed Coleman, the CEO of Unisys:

“Sharpening our organization’s communications capabilities, creating greater transparency, and improving access to our intellectual assets [people] could only increase our flexibility and responsiveness.”
From there he extrapolates the specific benefits that are not realized via other means of collaboration:

  • Knowledge sharing and transfer
  • Alignment
  • Identifying subject matter experts
  • Thinking out loud
  • Listening
  • Cross-department, cross-company, and cross-boundary communication
  • Collective intelligence and memory
  • Inspiring employees and building trust
  • Identifying new opportunities and ideas

Identifying the areas of benefit is not enough from here he does provide solid, practical advice and a framework for how organizations map out their business problems and tie them to specific actions or outcomes – starting with identifying the business problem.

Jacob Morgan
Author Jacob Morgan

Seriously, Jacob Morgan’s new book, The Collaborative Organization: A Strategic Guide to Solving Your Internal Business Challenges Using Emerging Social and Collaborative Tools provides what is, in my opinion, the leading comprehensive strategy guide to emergent collaboration in the workplace. It’s a necessary and vendor-agnostic read for anyone interested in workplace collaboration or who is in the process of deploying collaboration solutions.

In the end, it’s about people. The data indicates that the smart people who are affecting change in positive ways and realizing the benefits of business transformation are doing this through a shared focus on both culture and technology.  I encourage you to follow their lead and add this to your own tome of case studies, examples, and stories that you can share with your colleagues to help them as you collaborate on your collective journey.

Enter to win a special edition copy of Jacob’s book today. To learn tactical tips on collaborating within your organization, watch HootSuite University‘s Lecture Series with Jacob Morgan on the 5 Key Principles to Ensure Success and Avoid Failure: